Cecilia Karlsson

Personal photo - Cecilia Karlsson

Cecilia Karlsson

Rex Richards Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU; helena.karlsson@biodtp.ox.ac.uk


  • 2010-2012: International Baccalaureate at UWC Atlantic College (Higher Levels: Biology, Chemistry, Geography. Standard Levels: Maths, English A1, Spanish B. Extended Essay: Biology)
  • 2012-2015: BA in Biological Sciences, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
  • 2015: Moved to St. John's College and started my DPhil at the DTC


    My academic interests lie in understanding how different animals navigate through their natural environment. In particular, I am interested in the differences in the accuracy of the path integration system in vertical and horizontal space in animals constrained to travel along surfaces, such as rats and humans, compared to freely moving animals such as fish.


  • June-August 2011: I studied the ethology of a herd of captive Azara's Agouti at Exmoor Zoo to investigate the effects of implementing a behavioural enrichment programme in attempt to reduce stress and restore natural foraging behaviour. This involved tracking the behaviour of individuals using ethograms before, during and after enrichment (consisting of scatter feeds and foraging devices). The project proved successful and resulted in the permanent implementation of my enrichment programme at the zoo.
  • Summer 2015: I carried out my undergraduate FHS project with Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera in the OxNav research group, looking at human navigation in a multilevel building. I furthered prior explorations into the mechanism of path integration, previously largely studied on solely the horizontal plane where sensory inputs have often been isolated through virtual reality simulations. The aim was to explore the effect of the route traversed in a realistic environment, involving both vertical and horizontal components prior to seeing a landmark, on the production of direct distance estimates from a central reference point on that route. This found that human odometry was less accurate following travel in the vertical plane and increased route complexity, with consistent underestimation of distances.
  • DPhil Project I am hoping to further my explorations into animal navigation in three-dimensional space during my DPhil project, exploring the path integration system in rats and fish. I am interested in being co-supervised by Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera in Zoology and Prof. Kate Jeffery in UCL to focus not only on the functional but also the mechanistic basis of path integration by investigating the role of place, grid and head-direction cells during vertical and horizontal travel.

    Research Experience

  • July-August 2014: E.P. Abraham Internship at Oxford University Museum of Natural History (6 weeks): Positioned in the museum archives, I was in charge of creating a database cataloguing the material scattered across the Earth and Life Collections, to ISAG(G) collection level. This involved reading the field notebooks, diaries and correspondence of famous entomologists including Hope and Burchell, and geologists such as William Buckland.
  • September 2014: Oxford University Tropical Ecology Field Course, Sabah; Malaysian Borneo: This was a 10-day field course held at Danum Valley field-centre in Sabah, Malaysia. Field activities included dung beetle mark, release and recapture to estimate population size; Lepidoptera netting in fruit and light traps; analysis of seedling growth and survival in primary forest; and, execution of our own four-day field projects. The latter involved presenting our proposed question, hypotheses and experimental design, making alterations based on peer-feedback. We made use of the rare mast-fruiting event to look at fruit-specialisation, specifically the effect on Lepidoptera and Coleoptera diversity in nets and pit-fall traps. This was followed by statistical analysis and presentation of our main findings to the group.

    Prizes and Awards

  • Gibbs Prize for meritorious work in Biological Sciences, 2015